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New pets run rings around lockdown blues

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In the chaos before the hard lockdown in March 2020, people scrambled to get groceries, stock up on alcohol, or buy cigarettes. But some used those last few days of freedom to look beyond their own needs and help vulnerable animals.

They opened their hearts and homes to new pets, often on the spur of the moment. Their new furry family members provide comfort, joy, and affection during these difficult days of distancing, and they’ve never looked back.

“Our family decided we needed a new furry friend to make lockdown more bearable. Thus, on 25 March 2020, just after ‘Uncle Cyril’s’ first family meeting, we visited the amazing Kitty and Puppy Haven and pleaded for a puppy,” remembers Nikki Jammy.

“We were shown into an enclosure with some busy looking Jack Russel-ish puppies. Immediately, a little one with a skew stripe on his face and the attitude of a lion bounded up to us. Orlando ‘Olly’ Jammy chose us as his family – and boy did he choose well!”

“Olly broke all the rules. From no sleeping upstairs, he was in our beds within a couple of weeks. Olly formed a special bond not only with his people, but his fellow canines [one of whom sadly left us just a few short weeks after Olly’s arrival]. We consider ourselves blessed to have been able to give this wonderful pup a home. Aside from being spoiled, Olly’s access to people 24/7/365 has given him almost human traits, and every day is an adventure. Lockdown pets are, indeed, special!”

Meanwhile, the day before lockdown, “my stepdaughter was at a shelter with 450 cats, and they were trying to find homes for as many as possible”, says Gail Blacher. “I told her, ‘You better bring me a cat to look after.’ She landed up bringing two, and the rest is history. We chose two black cats which are the hardest to find homes for. We rushed to buy food for them … it was an instant decision. I started out fostering them, but I would never give them away.

“Before lockdown, our lives were so busy,” she says. “We had animals before, but hadn’t had a pet for a year. So it was perfect to get them for lockdown, when we were home a lot more. It was comforting. Now we don’t know what life would be without them. One is actually a feral cat, but he’s the one who never even tries to leave the house! He follows us around all day. We love them to the moon and back. We have fun with them, and they make us laugh.”

In Cape Town, Kelli Lunsky says, “We’d been umming and ahing about a puppy for a while. We’d wanted to get one for our son, Cameron, for his seventh birthday, but were due to move soon so decided against it. When the president announced the hard lockdown with a few days’ notice, my husband, Benji, and I looked at each other and said, “Let’s do it.” We found him after one phone call! One little boy in the litter, waiting for us!

“We decided to surprise the kids,” she says. “We’d just bought a Nespresso machine [also for lockdown] and told the kids they needed to come with us for a drive to collect a new milk frother that we’d bought off Gumtree. So we drove out to Brackenfell to meet the lady in the parking lot of a huge liquor store [you can’t believe the queues before lockdown]. When she pulled up next to us and lifted a puppy off her lap, the kids couldn’t believe their eyes! We bundled him up, brought him home, and the rest is history.

“He was the absolute delight and joy we needed to help us through the boredom and monotony of lockdown,” she says. “He got involved in online learning, attended many Zoom lessons, and took part in our daily exercise routine, doing laps around the property. Our other two doggies obviously couldn’t get out for walks, so George kept them well entertained as well!”

Also in Cape Town, Ian Blacher got his rescue dog, Riley, in 2019, but says her presence definitely helped them keep the lockdown blues away. “As she is a very active and demanding little dog, keeping her busy certainly made lockdown entertaining. She ran around the building with us on our morning training routines and we spent time training and socialising her with the other dogs in the building. She also kept some of the other residents in the building entertained and comforted, as dogs definitely have a comforting effect on people experiencing distress or loneliness.”

Meanwhile, some are continuing the trend as lockdown continues in one form or another with no end in sight. In Cape Town, Stephen “Sugar” Segerman says, “We have two older cats, but a month or so ago, we decided to get a kitten as a ‘lockdown upper’. I’ve always wanted a ginger kitten, but when we went to see one at a foster home, it turned out that there were two – twin boys. We took them both, and named them Archie and Naartjie. They have captured our hearts and home, adopted our dog Buddy as their uncle, and have brought nothing but joy to us during these difficult times.”

The SA Jewish Report is running a pet webinar on 23 September at 19:30. Please send us photographs and videos of your pets doing unbelievable and unique things. Email them to webinars@sajewishreport.co.za with your name, the pet’s name, your contact details, and any interesting details (optional). Prizes will be up for grabs.

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